Boston Bruins 4, Toronto Maple Leafs 3 (S/O)
The Boston Bruins (11-8-1) had won three straight which included a Tuukka Rask shutout against the Leafs only two days prior at the TD Garden while the Toronto Maple Leafs (7-10-5) were on a one-game skid and looked to seek retribution at the Air Canada Centre with James Reimer at the helm. After Game 7, a win against Boston is always nice in Toronto but it just wasn’t meant to be.
The problems started early for the Maple Leafs who were once again very slow to start and having a disastrous first twenty minutes to open up the game. The Leafs haven’t allowed a goal in the first period for eight games, but the Bruins shocked the Leafs early in the first period. Brad Marchand continued his goal streak when he swatted the puck in off Patrice Bergeron‘s shot for a shorthanded goal past Reimer early in the first to give Boston a 1-0 lead. The goal was reviewed for a high stick but the powers-that-be upstairs deemed that Marchand’s stick was in fact below the crossbar..as is most of Brad Marchand. Only minutes later, at 12:39 in the first, Zac Rinaldo scored his first of the year when he beat Reimer short-side and the Leafs left the first period trailed Boston 2-0 and outshooting the Bs 12-9.
The second period frenzy opened with Joffrey Lupul sniping past Boston goaltender Tuukka Rask‘s blocker to put the Leafs on the board and cut Boston’s lead in half. In anticipation for a delayed penalty, Reimer saw himself out to bring on the extra attacker for a Zdeno Chara crosscheck against the heralded penalty artist Nazem Kadri while Lupul sniped. Only a minute and two seconds later, Leo Komarov tied the game 2-2 in a frenzy in front of the net and kept the game alive for the home team. The tie wouldn’t last long before Brad Marchand scored his second dirty goal of the night and his fourth against the Maple Leafs in two nights. Three minutes later, with Tyler Bozak beating Rask on the right to tie the game. In the second period alone, the Leafs lit up Tuukka Rask like a Christmas tree to take over the shooting lead 28-17.
This ended the scoring in regulation as the Leafs and Bruins played a tight third period that ended scoreless. By the end of regulation the Leafs outshot the Bruins 38-28 and were effectively outplaying the Bruins after the disaster of a first period. Even with a Patrice Bergeron penalty in overtime thanks to Leo Komarov, who seems to be learning a thing or two from Kadri, the team were unable to capitalize and the game was decided on the skill competition. David Krejci scored the lone shootout goal to end the game with the Leafs giving up a league-high fourth shootout loss against the Bruins. This one had a very frustrating ending considering the team had really cleaned up its act between the first period and…the rest of the game. Although he is not blameless in the loss, goaltender James Reimer overcame his early missteps in the first period to power his way to 26 saves in 29 shots, only allowing one goal in 20 shots in the final two periods and 3-on-3 overtime. If the Leafs want to keep moving forward, they have to find a way to start their engines a little faster because a slow first period could set the tone for the rest of the game if they’re not careful.
Washington Capitals 4, Toronto Maple Leafs 2
The last time the Maple Leafs (7-11-5) faced Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals (17-5-1) was a heartbreaker shootout loss that saw the game get sent to overtime with .8 seconds left all thanks to Niklas Backstrom. Because the world is what it is, the Capitals came to the Air Canada Centre on a four game win streak while the Leafs entered after two frustrating losses to the Boston Bruins. The Leafs had a five day rest between games and trouble in the net brewed as James Reimer was pulled from the starting job due to injury and general soreness that had plagued him in practice on Tuesday morning. Head coach Mike Babcock started the winless Jonathan Bernier to give him a chance to hold down the fort and make a case for his starting position back. It was his first start in two weeks and he was unable to shake off the rust, falling to nine losses this year and Mike Babcock being, in a word, unimpressed.
Bernier’s woes started early when Jason Chimera beat the goaltender straight from the faceoff circle only 3:43 into the period to give Washington a 1-0 lead. The Leafs proceeded to empty their weapons at Braden Holtby, outshooting the Capitals 16-4 in the first period in the hopes of tying up the game and giving themselves a chance. Peter Holland put away a Dion Phaneuf pass to tie up the game at one but unfortunately that was the only goal for the Leafs in the first.
The scoring in the second period opened with a downright ugly goal against Bernier when Morgan Reilly overcommitted to allow Jonathan Bernier to leave his net wide open if anyone wanted to take a swing at essentially an empty net. The goal was given to Tom Wilson for the first time this season because of course. Even with the ugly goal, the Leafs were still battling back with a power-play goal from Leo Komarov only seconds after John Carlson left the ice for an interference penalty. With the goal Komarov not only tied for the Leafs goal lead with Joffrey Lupul but he tied his career-high goal count of 8 only 23 games into the season. This is a testament to how the center has broken out on the first line and has been flourishing under new coaching and his new position as the number one center. Unfortunately for the Leafs, the buck stopped there and the Capitals were able to score twice unanswered.
The power play frenzy continued as Alex Ovechkin shot towards Bernier and the puck bounced off Leafs defensemen Roman Polak right to the stick of Marcus Johansson. The goal would eventually become the game-winner because of course it did. Justin Williams would add more insult to injury by scoring (of course) on the power play (of course) while captain Dion Phaneuf sat in the box for interference (of course). Despite a late offensive rally from the Leafs in the third, the score remained the same and the Leafs fell to the Capitals 4-2 in the Air Canada Centre for their third loss in a row despite the efforts of Holland and Komarov and an offense that outshot the Capitals 34-23.
It’s an easy way out to blame the goaltender but there is no denying that Jonathan Bernier had a very difficult night. Altogether from the beginning of the first period to the last goal of the game at 13:26 into the second period, Bernier allowed four goals in 13 shots. That is historically…not very good. Babcock elected not to pull Bernier after the second period but the goaltender finished with a struggling .826 save percentage that reflected a rough year for the goaltender. Mike Babcock announced that if James Reimer was not yet ready to take on the Oilers that the chance would go to Garret Sparks, at the time the goaltender was the SV % leader in the AHL with the Toronto Marlies. This effectively shuts the door for Bernier to win back his job for the moment and all he can really do is work to get out of the mental rut he’s currently in because with Reimer out, the Leafs need to find it within themselves to win with someone else in between the pipes.
Photo credit goes to Frank Gunn, AP Photo/Canadian Press.